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"Untitled" 1996

Vasıf Kortun

Turkey’s contemporary artists have been increasingly using video and photography. Unlike the exclusionary histories of traditional artistic media, democratic materials of everyday life, like photography were suitable tools for a climate of emotion. Photography’s appearance in contemporary art however, against its common usage, came at a second level in the form of document and cool testimony. Neriman Polat’s photography builds upon the notion of the legal document and saturates its fiction with emotion. It is fictional because Polat also manipulates the subjects she photographs. Anything that could divert the interest of the viewer is emptied out. She uses simple and mundane backgrounds and anonymous spaces. The subject’s clothes too are mundane and uniform-like. The viewer is not handed out any clues. Polat uses the portrait photography perhaps because this genre is associated with the identity pictures in legal documents. The legal document’s standardization and categorization ?an important aspect in the history of the uses of photography? forces us to look at the subject again as if we are missing something. All we see is two same-size pictures of a young girl, the only difference being the different movement of the eyes. From her dress, posture, and physiognomy, we cannot make out where she is from. We are facing a subject that does not give herself in. Polat, who used to utilize her body as a marker for her work, is now interested in marking, a face on the verge of radical physical transformation. Polat may interest in emphasizing that the subject does not have control, and moves her eyes according to the artist’s dictates, but another possibility is the impenetrability of the subject, and indifference to being photographed. It is as we have no choice but navigate on the surface between the two parts of the photograph, with the eyes looking inward.